Definition of deference in English:



  • [mass noun] Polite submission and respect:

    ‘he addressed her with the deference due to age’
    • ‘The judgment made by the defendant as the primary decision maker should be accorded due deference by the court.’
    • ‘Already their experiment shows signs of failure, and that in a society notable for its deference to authority and tradition.’
    • ‘Even when this process is taking place, there is still a battle against old ideas and the habits of deference and submission.’
    • ‘They must give due deference to the decisions of the inspectors and the Secretary of State.’
    • ‘An embarrassing four-year period of media deference to the president and his policies has ended.’
    • ‘Elizabeth II came to the throne when Britain still enjoyed a society where deference joined with self respect.’
    • ‘But our relationship should be one of mature partnership not one of undue deference.’
    • ‘In his view, the article requires respect for family life not automatic deference to family decisions.’
    • ‘For a court to do otherwise is for a court to fail to show proper deference to a legislative authority.’
    • ‘Traditional class boundaries have been eroded and deference has all but disappeared from British society.’
    • ‘In coming to terms with this situation, teachers need to accept the loss of some traditional deference.’
    • ‘It was typical of a Queen who, in her own words, thoroughly disliked pomposity and ritual deference.’
    • ‘He confirms this shyly, perhaps out of deference to his employer, who trained with White and later became his great rival.’
    • ‘But a loss of deference is very different from a loss of respect for other people.’
    • ‘What has almost disappeared is deference towards the lower classes.’
    • ‘In a previous era he'd have been a gardener on a large estate, and still retains all of his deference to people he considers his betters.’
    • ‘Arrogance is not an attractive trait, but surely it beats passive deference?’
    • ‘The wasn't much sign of deference either, the shouted questions were pretty direct.’
    • ‘The prisoners were all perfectly submissive and paid every deference to the wishes of those in whose custody they were placed.’
    • ‘It was those very values of deference, place and the proper order of things which brought this country to the brink of collapse after the war.’
    respect, respectfulness, regard, esteem
    consideration, attentiveness, attention, thoughtfulness
    courteousness, courtesy, politeness, civility, dutifulness, reverence, veneration, awe, homage
    submissiveness, submission, obedience, yielding, surrender, accession, capitulation, acquiescence, complaisance, obeisance
    View synonyms


  • in deference to

    • Out of respect for; in consideration of:

      ‘in deference to her wishes we spent two weeks on the coast’
      • ‘But in deference to my first correspondent I will name another case, and there may be others.’
      • ‘The Good Friday procession, which symbolises Christ's path to his crucifixion, was modified in deference to the Pope's age and health.’
      • ‘He goes along with the fooling of Malvolio in deference to his betters, but he gives us the distinct impression that it leaves a nasty taste in his mouth.’
      • ‘The respected Maori member Mita Ririnui graciously gave up his speaking slot in deference to his colleague Tariana Turia, who had previously been denied a slot.’
      • ‘They either watch me march away or hurriedly dash to me with an immediate, apologetic and cursory check of my goods, in deference to my self-conferred diplomatic status.’
      • ‘The team was named Celtic, in deference to Brother Walfrid's wishes, who felt that this name would encompass both its Irish and Scottish roots.’
      • ‘He kissed Greek soil, which was held up in a basket in deference to his fragile physical state.’
      • ‘We would be doing a public disservice if, in deference to ancient law, we were to invalidate a simple, sensible, and practical formula for ascertaining a fair and reasonable price.’
      • ‘The identity of the surrogate mother, the woman who had carried the baby to term for the couple, was not disclosed in deference to her wish.’
      • ‘I have said ‘responsibility’ because, in deference to those who struggled and fought for this right, it is our responsibility to use it.’


Mid 17th century: from French déférence, from déférer refer (see defer).